Retrospective: CHVRCHES “The Bones of What You Believe”

Should an album that only saw its release a little more than a year ago really qualify for a Retrospective post? Is it really appropriate to talk about a synth pop record on a metal blog? I’ll answer these queries with a question of my own: do I really give a damn? Not in the slightest. The decision to revisit said year-old synth pop record was inspired by a Twitter exchange yesterday with four fine gents (okay, two gents, a blog and a record label), since which, I haven’t listened to much of anything else. Which really isn’t that bad a problem to have, as you’ll see.

So all that said, for this week’s Retrospective, let’s take a look back at CHVRCHES’ The Bones of What You Believe

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Some context for anyone who may not be familiar with the band: this album came out in September 2013, a little more than two years after CHVRCHES formed. The band–singer Lauren Mayberry and synth-ists (synth-ers?) Iain Cook and Martin Doherty–formed after Cook produced an EP for Mayberry’s former band, Blue Sky Archives and suggested she sing on some demos he and Doherty were working on. Eight months later, in May 2012, they released their first song, “Lies,” over the internet, and have been going at a steady (okay, meteoric) clip ever since–performing everywhere from The Late Show with David Letterman, to Coachella, to the Reading and Leeds Festivals.

Put simply, The Bones of What You Believe is one of the most satisfying and complete-sounding debut albums released in the last several years–from any genre. Cook and Doherty layer synths and vocal loops tastefully on each track, creating one devastatingly captivating soundscape after another. And there’s quite a nice mix of styles at play here, as well: “Science/Visions” is dark and vehement, while “Tether” is a sweet, pace-changing ballad that Cyndi Lauper would have killed for. And then you get songs like “We Sink” and “Gun,” which are just so perfectly catchy that you get a kind of natural sugar rush while listening to them.

The constant between them all is Mayberry–who ties the whole package together with her earnest, angelic vocals. Frankly, there’s no way this record is anywhere near as successful without her. Doherty occasionally tries his hand at singing here–with mixed, but not terrible results. (In particular, I’ve always liked “Under the Tide,” although that’s more down to the song itself than to his vocal performance, to be perfectly honest) But swapping him out and Mayberry in bumps the vocals up nicely from “mixed, but not terrible” to “totally stellar.” I don’t mean this as a jab at Doherty’s contributions to Bones in the slightest–more an appreciation of just how bright a star they’ve got in Mayberry.

Fourteen months after its release, I still don’t know if I can pick a favorite song from The Bones of What You Believe. I’ve had about five or six different “favorites” from the album–at the moment, I’d lean toward “Night Sky,” but who knows how long that will last before one of the others grabs me–and there’s probably a fair case to be made for any and all of the 12 here. It’s just a fantastic record from top to bottom. (Imagine my delight when they played every single song from it at their Terminal 5 gig this past May!)

terminal5
Disregarding the fact that I was watching from the third-floor balcony, this was a completely kickass show. (From my Instagram: @dkaps89)

So that’ll about wrap it up. If you need a break from the heavier things in life and want something light, fun and goddamn excellent to listen to, check out The Bones of What You Believe. You’ll have a hard time not being completely won over by CHVRCHES here.

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

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